MLK Church: Living Missionally in a Post-Christian World
This past weekend, I had the honor of attending the dedication of a new building for Martin Luther King (MLK) Church in Créteil, France – a large suburb of Paris and home to one of France’s largest universities. Over the years, Ivan Carluer, the pastor of this growing church, has become a dear family friend and an inspiration for the work he is doing in a post-Christian city like Paris.
Pastor Ivan planted what is now known as MLK Church in 2004 in a heavily communist and socialist region of Paris. Others warned him against trying to plant a church in this area, but he pressed on in faith. When the church began to outgrow the building they were renting in 2008, Pastor Ivan visited the city’s mayor to request permission to purchase a building for the church. In France, the mayor must approve new construction and has the power to stop land transactions. At this time, the mayor denied Pastor Ivan’s request, stating that there were already too many temples in the city.
In 2015, Pastor Ivan returned to the mayor to request permission again – with a new plan in mind. In the time since his first request, the church had grown not only in size, but in scope of mission. They were not just a church anymore, but had become a community center with a mission of encouraging interfaith dialogue amongst people from all walks of life and religions. The church is named after Martin Luther King Jr. because he serves as a role model for Pastor Ivan on how to be a pastor dedicated to both preaching and social transformation. 60% of children born today in Paris are of mixed race, and the church strives to be a place open to diversity in all forms. Presenting this new plan, the mayor willingly granted them permission to build their new building. While not a believer, the mayor shared Pastor Ivan’s goal for bringing peace and unity to his city.
I had the privilege of visiting Pastor Ivan in 2015 to see the plans for the new building.
It took seven years to complete this new building, but it was well worth the wait. The Espace Martin Luther King Grand Paris, as it is now called, is a 60,277 square feet masterpiece consisting of offices, conference rooms, an 1,000 seat auditorium, a children’s center, a café, a panoramic restaurant, and a gym. Pastor Ivan lovingly refers to the building as “the inn”, taking inspiration from the story of the Good Samaritan, as he wants it to be a place open to everyone, whether they are believers or not. The building will be used for the MLK Church on the weekends, but is open during the week for a variety of non-church related community activities such as charity events, athletic games, fashion shows, car exhibitions, business conferences, trade shows, stand-up comedy, and more – even events for churches of other denominations.
Pastor Ivan’s heart behind this building and his church is simple – to live out the fullest expression of the Gospel to his city. Without question, I would say he is doing just that. Thank you, Pastor Ivan and MLK Church, for being one of the greatest examples for the global Church on how to live missionally in a pluralistic world.
During 9/11 my dad was stuck in Paris and unable to get home. He used that time to pray for the city. At the dedication service for MLK Church he shared this powerful statement, “20 years ago we witnessed the destruction of a building that flooded the world with desperation. Today, we celebrate the erection of a building that brings hope like none other can.”